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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 30 Mar 2020


  • The combination of thought and feelings with the capability of new technologies and data availability became the most powerful weapon, available to almost anyone interested, increasing the potential of SIMAD (Single Individual Massively Destructive).
  • Globally, ISIS (ISIL) and climate change are seen as leading threats to national security, although with significant variations among countries.
  • The scope and spectrum of terrorism and of civil unrest are expanding and intensifying. And so are also internal disputes with and among paramilitary groups, and violent extremism.
  • Anticipation and thwarting of terrorist acts will become increasingly difficult but also more urgent, since would-be terrorists have easier access to new tools that will enable them to develop massively destructive weapons (such as using CRISPR and synthetic biology to create new infectious viruses; and the creation of digital viruses in cyberspace to cause disruption of vital services). Many of these weapons will be very difficult to pre-detect.
  • The lone actor phenomenon adds a new dimension to the global security landscape, not only from a safety point of view, but most of all, ethical and legal perspectives. Lone wolves and small group attacks are one of the symptoms of our social and international systems’ failures to keep pace with a better informed, highly connected, technology-savvy, more demanding, and interrelated world. As a "glocalised" phenomenon, it needs a global framework with local action.
  •  The Global Terrorism Database contains over 190,000 terrorist incidents for the period 1970 to 2018.
  • According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, 71 countries recorded at least one death from terrorism in 2018, the second highest number of countries since 2002.
  • The global economic impact of terrorism was US$52 billion in 2017, 42% decrease compared to the year before. 
  • In the EU, nine Member States reported a total of 129 foiled, failed and completed terrorist attacks in 2018, a strong decrease compared to 205 in 2017. The number of jihadist terrorist attacks decreased from 33 in 2017 to 24 in 2018.
  • A significant impact of terrorism is the change in the perception of Europeans for their security. Fear is the breeding ground for populism and mistrust.
  • Since the number of returnee foreign fighters is expected to increase in the coming years, fears of increasing terrorism increase. By some estimates, over 40,000 foreign fighters have joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq since the beginning of 2013.
  • Emerging modus operandi might be the use of drones or other autonomous vehicles, lethal autonomous weapons and 3D printing of weapons. Further modus operandi might be CRBN, attacking water or food supply, derailing trains as well as cyber-terrorism. | Related Megatrends: Technology
  • The financing of terrorism is also changing. Apart from traditional sources like illegal activities (illicit drug trade, trafficking) and state sponsorship  in the case of hybrid warfare, terrorists now also use charities or  front companies, non-profit organisations (NGOs)  carrying out completely legitimate work and even crowd-sourcing online in order to finance their activities. The dark web offers an unlimited source for terrorism entrepreneurship.
  • The opinions are very devided about the likelihood of terrorist attacks with high level of casualities. When asked about a terrorist attack killing 100,000 or more people before 2050, half of an international panel of experts rated the likelihood very high, while the other half deemed it impossible.  

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